I'm a long-time fan of Saturday Night Live, but I don't watch it anymore. I stopped tuning at some point during the 2000-2001 season.
I am thirty-something now, so I remember when the original Not Ready For Prime Time Players and writers, mostly veterans of Second City and later affiliated with National Lampoon, made shouting "Live from New York, It's Saturday Night!" seem exciting. When the 1980s came and the original cast all left to do movies and other solo projects (except Garrett Morris, of course), I kept watching, and the show got... well, awkward. I mean, Charles Rocket and Brian Doyle-Murray aren't household names and never will be. Let's face it, if Eddie Murphy and Joe Piscopo hadn't pulled the show along pretty much on their own for the early- to mid-80s, NBC would have deep-sixed SNL for sure. Arguably, some of the less-memorable cast members had really great moments too, and the writing improved as the decade wore on. Who among us that were there can forget Terry Sweeney's flaming, campy Nancy Reagan impression, or Tim Kazurinsky's nerdy, dirty-minded Dr. Jack Badoffsky with his medical flash cards?
The show really started turning around with the arrival of the late, great Phil Hartman. I really cannot say enough about the talent of this man, and I get a little teary-eyed just thinking about the fact that he isn't with us in the world anymore, particularly given the circumstances of his departure. Anyway, he had more tricks up his sleeve and original ideas in his little finger than all of the original cast put together. Many may dispute this claim, which is fine, as it's only my opinion.
Fortune soon smiled upon SNL as Lorne Michaels somehow collected together a cast of talent unparalleled in the show's history - not just on the stage, but behind it. Practically every member of the cast from 1987-1993 has had some kind of successful solo gig following their run on the show, whether it be their own TV series (Jon Lovitz, Dennis Miller, Chris Rock, Norm MacDonald), movies (Billy Crystal, Martin Short, Robert Downey, Jr., Anthony Michael Hall, Adam Sandler, Rob Schneider, Mike Myers, Dana Carvey, David Spade, Chris Farley, among others) or other projects (many of the aforementioned). Most of the writers went on to become minor performers in later seasons of SNL, or go on to write for David Letterman, Jay Leno, or a variety of sitcoms. I consider this period to be the "golden years" of SNL, as I would eagerly anticipate every Saturday night because it would mean another new, hilarious episode that my friends and I could talk and laugh about on Monday at school or at work.
Then the dark days came. All the old contracts must have expired and the waning old cast disappeared (except for Tim Meadows, who signed a ten year contract - what a dumbass!), and was replaced with an entirely new cast in the mid-1990s. All the old writers either quit or were fired as well, because the new show, well... SUCKED! And not just a little bit, but major Warp-10 suckness. I swear, if I see the "Cheerleader sketch" one more time, I'm gonna shoot my television. Okay, Mary Catherine Gallager was funny the first fifty times I saw it, but c'mon... even John Belushi's Samurai Chef would have gotten old if he had done it EVERY SINGLE WEEK (hell, Buck Henry had all the intelligible lines anyway).
Which brings me to a very important question: Why don't we get a new show every week? Is it so costly or difficult to write funny material and do a live performance weekly, like... oh let's say, SNL has always done for the past 25+ years? C'mon, Lorne... are you really that much of a rich lazy bastard? Are you so busy making crummy SNL character-based movies (A Night At The Roxbury, The Ladies Man, et al) that you are allowing the actual SNL to turn into a piece of crap?
As I have already mentioned, I do not watch SNL anymore. As it happens, I have stopped watching television altogether, but that's another rant. As far as SNL goes, I have been there since the beginning when the show was new and fresh and good, I suffered through the rough patches of the early 1980s, I rejoiced as the show improved in the mid-80s and celebrated the quality of the show in the late 80s and early 90s. At least during that time, America got a new show almost every week during the production season. Be it good or bad, lame or cool, come Saturday night baby, it was LIVE. In your face, here's what we've got... that's what the show was really all about. It was tolerable when the show sucked because at least you knew that come next week you'd get something completely new and original, and you tuned in to see what would happen. And that kept you coming back, even during the lean times.
We don't have that anymore. What is the ratio now... one new SNL per month? Every six weeks? I have lost count. And when it is new, is it even worth watching? I mean, unless you're interest in catching the musical group, what's the point? I must admit that I kinda like the Weekend Update format with Jimmy Fallon and Tina Fey... but it's just a rehash of Dan Akroyd and Jane Curtin from 1978. Are we going to get "Jane, you ignorant slut!" again? I doubt it.
So I'm bitter and cynical about SNL. I wish it would just die a peaceful, dignified death. It doesn't deserve the disgraceful flogging it is getting, and now that it's become self-referential, the show itself has become a joke. Please, Lorne... I beg of you. Let it go.